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My Ishmael

My son is in trouble. He’s not my actual (physical) son, but without a doubt Danny is a son of my heart. I saw him before I met his dad (Dan) 13 years ago, and I didn’t even know he had a son.

He was a young handsome man, with his dad’s dark good looks. Big eyes—all of Dan’s babies have big eyes. Dan has tiger eyes though. None of them got those, but they all have startling eyes that move you by their sheer depth. I tried to be kind to Danny, but I was his daddy’s strange girlfriend. I don’t think he was bowled over by me. He was 16 back then. After only a year with his father, he would go away again, amid many sorrows.

I married Dan almost three years later. Danny was nowhere to be found.

So, I loved this man, Dan. We raised my girl, had a boy and a girl together. One day out of the blue we get a call. It’s Danny, and I see my husband’s face shining with love as he talks. I’m so happy I want to jump up and down.

Our prodigal on the phone.

He asked his dad, "Whatever happened to Claudia?" Dan got to report, "I Married her." I was so moved that he remembered me. He visited us not much later, but his new lifestyle was a hard thing to shake. He went away again. And we grieved him all over.

Everybody gets tired. I don’t care how cool culture says it is to live a worldly, rough lifestyle, our son got tired. Tired of a prodigal’s riotous living. We offered him a bit of shelter from the torrential storms in his life. We asked him to come live with us away from the big city. Find his feet. And he did. He got a GED before you knew it, and then this bright, amazing man who had overcome so much went on to college.

But Danny got tired. It really is possible to get weary doing well, especially when a you’re having troubling finding a job, and you miss your kids and girlfriend, and life in a small city is slow. And even though it’s a far cry from the East side of the big city, living with us had it’s own burdens. He grew unhappy. Unhappiness begat despair. We lost him all over again.

Six months and not a word, until a call on Monday saying he’s in trouble.

It was something no parent wants for his or her child. We are left devastated. All of us. We are praying; we are momentarily caught in a nightmare from which we will awaken, shaken and grateful it was only a dream, rather than the kind of nightmare that becomes a life.

I read in the novel by Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, a passage that moved my heart so deeply today. It reads:

    The story of Hagar and Ismael came to mind while I was praying this morning, and I found a great assurance in it. The story says that it is not only the father of a child who cares for its life, who protects is mother, and says that even if the mother can’t find a way to provide for it, or herself, provision will be made. At that level it is a story full of comfort. That is how life goes—we send our children into the wilderness. Some of them on the day they were born, it seems, for all the help we give them. Some of them seem to be a kind of wilderness unto themselves. But there must be angels there, too, and springs of water. Even if that wilderness, the very habitation of jackals is the Lords. I need to bear this in mind.

Dear Lord. We all make mistakes, and some of us make big, epic mistakes because we are young, and use poor judgment, and are sinful people. There is so much blame to cast. So much bread of sorrow to choke down. And yet, I feel that brush of angels wings, hear their rustlings in the atmosphere. I feel the waters of the God springs mingle with the wind and spray a fine mist on my face. God is here with His magnificent—although I’m clueless in understanding it—provision.

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I just know He is.

I am grateful that God is with a son in his wilderness, even though the jackals howl, and our souls cry out.

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

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